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More birthdays mean more time to celebrate good things in life

By June Mathews

Birthdays seem to come and go more quickly these days. I celebrated one last week, and though I knew it was coming, it breezed past before I could hardly blink.

But that’s OK. I’m still alive and kicking, which is more than you can say for a lot of people born around the same time I was. As my 86-year-old father-in-law has been known to say, “I’m just happy to be this side of the grass.”

I used to laugh when he said that, but as I grow older, it strikes a more meaningful chord with me, and I couldn’t agree with the sentiment more.

My dad died at a relatively young age, 48, so the nine years since I turned 48 have seemed like gravy to me. I decided long ago that getting all morbid about aging is no way to live and that birthdays might as well be fun. That’s why each day during my birthday month (which, coincidentally, shares my name) I keep a nightly journal of at least one thing I’ve found worth celebrating that day.

By concentrating on the brighter side of life, I generally manage to keep any depressing thoughts about turning older at bay. One exception, however, is a bit of a black cloud in the form of a comment made to me a few days after I turned 50. But I only have myself and my propensity to chat with random individuals in grocery store lines to blame.

As those who know me can vouch, I’ll cheerfully chat it up with anybody who’ll chat back and enjoy every moment. But a two-minute encounter with a geriatric debutante-type in a trendy Mountain Brook market proved less than pleasant. During our brief (but as it turned out, not brief enough) acquaintance, we somehow wound up addressing the subject of age, and I admitted to having just crossed the half-century mark the week before.

As she hoisted a fashionable floral tote bag full of organic fruit and gluten-free products with one hand, she gently laid her other hand on my arm.

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news,” she said in a lilting voice dripping with Southern sweetness, “but you only have about 10 good years left. Once you turn 60, everything starts falling apart.”

“Um, thanks for the note of encouragement,” I deadpanned, put off by her unwelcome candor. I mean, we were passing strangers in a grocery store line, for Pete’s sake. We were supposed to be talking about the weather and the rising price of cabbage. The last thing I wanted to hear was that in one short decade, my life in the Land of Fairly Continent & Somewhat Mobile would be over.

“You’ll see,” she said ominously as she headed for the automatic doors.

So now that I’m on the downhill side of my 50s, I think of that warning on occasion. But for some reason, it’s not as unnerving to me as it used to be. Though the gray hairs are multiplying, and the wrinkles around my eyes are deepening, nothing has fallen apart just yet. Even if something does, I hear they can do wonders with superglue these days.

In the meantime, I’ll be keeping an eye out for the good things in life to celebrate, like an unexpected gift or a hummingbird at the feeder or a chocolate milkshake. And yeah, this side of the grass is still looking good, too. I think I’ll go outside and roll around in it while I’m still spry enough to pull myself back up off the ground.

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